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UC Health Launches Intelemage Powered Live Video Consults

CINCINNATI, OH – 09/01/2015

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UC Health is launching a pilot program this month that will enable patients who need urgent care to consult for free with doctors via a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer.

Current patients of some primary care doctors will be able to discuss what ails them – and show symptoms if necessary – by using any device with a video camera and an Internet connection. A weight-loss specialist also will participate in the pilot.

The first patients are expected to be seen Sept. 30, said Dr. Anya Sanchez, enterprise director of special projects for UC Health.

Hundreds of patients are likely to participate during the six-month experiment, Sanchez said. Goals include making doctors more accessible, improving patient care, increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

The results could help spur a transformation of how UC Health and other hospital systems treat patients.

The video exchanges will be encrypted via a software application to ensure patient privacy and compliance with federal law. Patients with iPhones or iPads will download the app for free from Apple’s App Store, while people with Android devices will get the app at no charge from the Google Play store.

The app was designed by Intelemage, a downtown Cincinnati company that provides secure ways to expedite the electronic transfer of medical images and related information.

Each UC Health video visit is expected to take less than 10 minutes.

“If the patient needs more than that, it is in-depth enough that the patient needs to be seen in person,” Sanchez said.

The primary care doctors involved anticipate being able to address medical issues such as sore throat, allergies, colds and flu, bronchitis, ear aches, sinus congestion, skin conditions like poison ivy or bug bites, nausea, mild vomiting, diarrhea, urinary symptoms and eye conditions like pink eye.

In some cases, doctors should be able to treat patients simply by transmitting a prescription to a pharmacy.

“Imagine that a patient wakes up and has a headache or urinary symptoms,” Sanchez said. “Instead of having to go to the emergency department, they can call the doctor’s office that morning. They can get an appointment for that same afternoon and see a physician in that practice free of charge through a video visit.

“Imagine all the patients you don’t have to expose to infections by having them come in the office,” Sanchez said.

To participate in a video visit, a patient will telephone UC Health’s central scheduling department, said Pamela Kimmel, director of tele-health for UC Health. The scheduler will create an email invitation for the patient. At the appointment time, the patient will log into the app, and the doctor will do the same. They will be able to launch the video cameras on their devices to see each other.

One of the things the pilot program will gauge is patient satisfaction, Sanchez said.

“Did our patients like video visits?” Sanchez said. “We’ll also speak with our clinicians and see how they like the video interaction. We’ll be able to adjust the program to make it a terrific experience for the physicians and patients.

“We’re also going to look at cost savings,” Sanchez said. “Our tele-health program was founded through the use of robots (such as those used in the remote treatment of stroke patients). This new technology platform reduces the price to a fraction of what it had been using the robots.

“There’s a minimal cost” to UC Health, Sanchez said. “It’s on a per-episode basis. But we believe we’ll also be able to provide more efficient care. For example, the patient could avoid having to go to the emergency department” where the cost of treatment is much higher than in a doctor’s office.

Sanchez said it’s too soon to say how much UC Health might charge for a video visit if the concept is expanded on a permanent basis to other locations operated by the system, whose flagship hospital is the University of Cincinnati Medical Center in Corryville.

“This technology can play a role in almost any heath care delivery setting,” Sanchez said. “You’re never going to completely replace that face-to-face interaction, but there are so many situations where you can provide faster care through technology, and we want to be a national leader in providing that to our patients.”

UC Physicians includes about 800 doctors, making it the largest medical group in Greater Cincinnati. More than 50 UC Health doctors are involved in some aspect of tele-health, including specialists such as Dr. Shimul Shah, who leads the liver transplant program at the UC Medical Center.

The pilot program will involve people who are already patients of Dr. Nita Walker, whose UC Physicians practice in Montgomery offers primary care, or Dr. Angela Fitch, medical director of the UC Health Weight Loss Center in West Chester.

Other doctors who work in Walker’s practice will also will participate in video visits, Sanchez said. Walker’s appraisal of the pilot program could prove influential. As of Sept. 1, she is senior vice president of ambulatory services,which means she oversees all 63 outpatient centers operated by UC Health.

Key to the video visits is the software app designed by Intelemage, a firm whose name derives from the term “intelligent imaging.”

The company’s Intelegrid 4.0 app will be downloaded for free by patients of UC Health, which has a subscription for the service, said Jason Wickes, director of hospital solutions for Intelemage.

“We’ve been working with UC for several years,” Wickes said. “We’ve been helping them move medical images such as MRI and CT scans via secure interfaces from institution to institution.

“It’s expanding the scope of what they can do,” Wickes said. “Tele-health isn’t a radically new concept, but up until recently it’s taken a hefty investment to put these robots that cost thousands of dollars in place at facilities, which makes it cost prohibitive to do it on a large scale.

“Our solution is HIPPA compliant at a dramatic fraction of the cost,” Wickes said. “There’s no capital investment. It works with iPhones and iPads, Google Android devices, laptops and desktops as long as they have an Internet connection. If (patients) don’t have an embedded camera, they can buy a $100 USB plug-in device.”

Intelemage is pitching the videoconferencing capability of its app to other hospital systems nationwide, but UC Health is pioneering the use of it, Wickes said.

“A lot of people say, ‘Why can’t I use Skype or FaceTime?'” Wickes said. “You can, technically, but unless the videoconferencing is encrypted and secure, you might not be in compliance with federal requirements for patient privacy.”